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Old 09-07-2017, 01:31 PM   #1
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Long travel E350 7.3L 4x4 & More

Hello,

I'm thinking about doing a long travel E350 7.3L pop top or fixed top build.. Ive had some hate from overlanders on this build topic, any suggestions or positive advice from anyone? Anything helps.

P.S. Im 21 years old, and am starting my own overland camper building company, currently working on an LMTV 4x4 camper, and want to dip into off road teardrop trailers, sprinter vans, and SMB like builds but make them for the average joe, while still having the SMB off road ability and luxury just not the hefty price tag.

With builds ranging from a $6,000 teardrop trailer with 200w solar, 25gal freshwater tank, ARB or dometic fridges, rear kitchen, fox suspension, and 35" tires to $200k+ LMTV, Unimog composite body camper builds.
E250's and E350's would be around the $10-70k range depending on options and 4x2, 4x4 sprinter would be around $10-$120k depending on if i have to source the vehicle, and not use one the customer has purchased previously.

Let me know what you think, Im always looking for ideas and ways to expand this business venture. Im currently in the process of making a vehicle build portfolio

Thank you,
Matthew
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Old 09-07-2017, 01:52 PM   #2
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Funny how young folks consider criticism (either constructive or destructive) as hate

Must be that pop song lyric "haters gonna hate" that is stuck in their brain.

Just like saying something politically incorrect about any certain race, color, religion, country of origin, language, or flag is now called racism

Must be all that LOL, GTFO, BRB, etc that has boiled down online language to simplistic terms with multiple meanings.

Oh, sorry did I go off topic?

Yeah, your range of build budgets is insane. I wouldn't give $100k to a 21 year old builder. You may want to consider getting about 10 years experience as an apprentice to an experienced RV builder. These builds are no joke in that knowing electrical, plumbing, mechanical and HVAC systems, and suspension design among many other things should be in your wheelhouse.

but hey, call me a hater or show your completed projects that have thousands of miles on them to prove they are road and offroad worthy.
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Old 09-07-2017, 02:13 PM   #3
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Get a really big shop and every tool imaginable from Sewing to Woodworking to CNC metal working and all points in between. Learn TIG and MIG on Steel and Aluminum. Be proficient with 3D CAD. Learn to Weld, Sew, Laminate, Fabricate, Upholster, Wire, Plumb, Bolt, Screw, Beat with a hammer, and make pretty.
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Old 09-07-2017, 02:29 PM   #4
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Simplesez and Flux,

I appreciate the feedback, thank you!

I am a certified welder with certs in MIG, TIG, aluminum, stainless, and plastic welding . I have experience with complex circuits wiring from piloting, and repairing Atmospheric Diving suits, and exploration submarines. And love to design various things on CAD, and SketchUp. I will upload pictures as soon as the builds are done. Thank you again!
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Old 09-07-2017, 02:42 PM   #5
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Awesome. Love to hear young talent getting developed. Yes on the surface these RVs are pretty simple but man o man there are lots of nuances to getting it all to work right. Even the professionals are known to cut corners and make it so the end users have to make costly repairs to fix. Not on purpose of course.
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Old 09-07-2017, 03:19 PM   #6
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I totally understand that after hearing about all the system failures in Unicats and GXV boxes, and learning the cost to fix them. large expedition campers are a long term goal to reach, but I'm starting with vans, and overland teardrop pull behind campers.

I have an LMTV because I got one with a box on the back off of PlanetGov for only $3,300.. with only 340 miles, and about 300 pages of maintenance reports. Just to good to turn down, when done I hope to get $70-100k for it.

Some of the features include:
-2500W x10 250w polycrystalline solar panels
-3500Ah Apex Battery bank
-150 Gal freshwater tank
-40 gal grey
-Composting toilet with 10 Gal container
-30 Gallon P/H water maker- 3 stage filter with reverse osmosis system
-x2 100gal diesel tanks, with locking caps, the tanks are caged and insulated as well
-Tankless hot water heater
-Hot water radiant heat under marine grade starboard floors
-Queen size lofted bed
-12' slide out wall on right side
and lots more to come..
Biggest issue is with soundproofing the cab without having to do any fabrication work.
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Old 09-07-2017, 04:32 PM   #7
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Right on Msanda!! Go big and get after it.

When you get into these smaller rigs, think about stuff that can serve more than one purpose and think light weight. I was grabbing some things to put in my rig for a camping trip this weekend and I kind of laughed thinking that I had a really big backpack now. My experiences from backcountry backpacking kind of come in here but now I get a V10 to haul my crap around.

Also remember that going from a one off build to production and making sure your time is profitable is a very different deal.

I wish you the best of luck with all your endeavors.
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Old 09-07-2017, 04:59 PM   #8
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Good luck, start reading here and at Expo (which I'm sure you aready have) and take some time to absorb things. I'm about to probably hear about this from our overwhelmingly pro-Ford Econoline ranks but the platform is dead in the eyes of Ford and quickly dying and being replaced in the eyes of everyone in the aftermarket world. I would think you would need to reign in a LOT of your ideas to do what is manageable and affordable for most people new to camper vans. That's my MO anyway. It has worked well for me as a hobby builder/flipper type to stick with Fords, or at least just a couple of specific vehicle types only. YMMV, but if you want to make money then work on what people are into lately, which it Sprinters, Transits, etc. I think you'll find it hard to get a leg up in dealing with defunct platforms in a world where lots of guys with so much experience already have their names out there.

This statement is quite contradictory " starting my own overland camper building company, currently working on an LMTV 4x4 camper, and want to dip into off road teardrop trailers, sprinter vans, and SMB like builds but make them for the average joe, while still having the SMB off road ability and luxury just not the hefty price tag."

You can't have it all, my friend. These things just aren't cheap to build properly. I would pay close attention to what is and isn't working with the biggies in the van and camper van world and maybe talk to some of them. Chris at Ujoint, Michael at Expovans, Jeremy at Weldtec, John at Agile Offroad, Derek at Colorado Camper Van, and I'm sure I've forgotten a few. Then you've got Outside Vans, Nomad Vans, VanHaus Vans, GoWesty, etc. in the niche and Euro market.

There IS a living to be made with vans, but slow down and build one or two first. See what kind of distractions you run into on it which may open your eyes to a niche or specialty you might find you have or stumble on to.

Here's the most important thing, and it's the reason I don't build vans full time. Do you want a job or hobby? I find vans fun but I don't want to be obligated to work on them all the time. If you are a diehard creator/fabricator/engineer you may have an insatiable appetite for production but at 21 you probably have hardly tapped in to it yet. I enjoy camping and playing with vans but that won't feed the family unless I were to turn it up to a level that I have no interest in. Also, this is very important. Where are you? If you're in the Southeast or really anywhere that isn't a mountain or deep western state then the odds are more against you. Not insurmountable but it's not cheap or easy to ship a van across the country. Are you near an international airport? Does it appeal to you to spend half your time on the phone answering the same old questions for people who won't read or research, and the other half coordinating drop/ship of vehicles?

Let's see that first build first. Don't do it for us, do it for you and see how you like it.

Oh, one more thing. Why build a 7.3? Sure, they're great. They're also not made anymore, as in, since 2003. With the training you've listed you're going to spend a ton of time learning and inevitably developing stuff for a platform that is gone. Howbout figuring out how to make a 4x Transit a reliable and capable vehicle? Or, of course, an Ecoboost Transit?

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Old 09-07-2017, 05:39 PM   #9
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At 21 years old I was in engineering school and working part time in a street rod shop learning from guys who'd been in the business 20+ years. There's a lot more to a custom fabrication business than just fabrication. You may have welding or fab talent coming out your ears but if you have no business sense, you're gonna find out quickly how difficult it is to wear all the hats.

Before going deep into the wallet to build a rig, go to the library and check out some books on small business, corporate structure, accounting... or better yet, take some classes, join a small business owners group in your area, go talk to ol' timers who've been in the biz a while. I know, tons of yawning involved with the reading and classes but it's absolutely necessary to know what you don't know and then go find the resources to help you.

Ambition is great. Drive and perseverance are great too. But there's a list a mile long of all the other traits one needs to be successful in business, let alone a specialized, labor intensive business like this.
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Old 09-07-2017, 10:31 PM   #10
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Sage advice from MG.

I know that the lessons I have learned over 20 years of engineering for a manufacturer and trying to meet certain margins make me wary of starting my own thing without the proper resources and a very very solid business plan.

That being said, being young and ambitious is never a bad time to get after things. My outlook changed a lot once I had kids, a mortgage, etc. But looking back I was in no way prepared to start a biz on the fly, I simply did not have enough skills. But that is just me.
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